Film #84: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Wreck-It-Ralphdirector: Rich Moore
language: English
length: 101 minutes
watched on: 6 May 2013

I’d been meaning to watch this for quite a while, and I’ve seen a lot of praise for it on the internet, but not only was it out late in Japan (as usual), they didn’t even bother to release the original undubbed version … anywhere. I was a little surprised, to be honest. Well, then there’s nothing for it but illegal streaming sites. I’ll come back to the Japanese release a bit later. In any case, once I was watching it, I found it pretty good.

The story is basically that in an arcade somewhere in America, the video game characters, in a manner very similar to Toy Story, come alive at night and interact with each other. They can connect by somehow entering the overcrowded splitter plug, which is known to them as Game Central Station. This scene is set right at the beginning, when Ralph, the villain from the “Fix it Felix Jr” game, attends a Villains Anonymous meeting at the start, and when the camera zooms out, we find it’s in the little ghost room in the middle of the Pacman maze.

Ralph doesn’t want to be a villain, and decides the best way to do that would be to earn a medal, somehowe, and by a convoluted series of events involving sneaking into an action shooter, he ends up getting one, but losing it in the game Sugar Rush, which is basically Mario Kart under a different name, populated mainly by young girl racers. Then he meets Veronica, the little girl, who is a glitch in the game who wants to win a race to prove her glory (so, basically the same motive).

Beyond that, the plot is generally predictable, which I think we should expect from a Disney movie, but it is quite fun, especially when they visit different places. There’s enough action in the film to satisfy, as well, particularly with regards to the action shooter game. The settings themselves were very well thought-out, and looked pretty amazing. Most of the film is spent in Sugar Rush, which is a really colourful (mostly pink, to be fair) world made of candy. I think they must have got a million sponsorship deals just to make it. In some ways it was almost too rich, especially when they’re in places like the forests where players couldn’t be reasonably expected to go in real life, but pretty much all the time they were making references to video game culture, and I liked that.

Sugar Rush is actually the name of the Japanese release, too, just to come back to that. I always wondered about that – perhaps Wreck-It Ralph was seen as too difficult to transcribe or something? Later when I watched the credits, though, they played a theme song for Fix-it Felix and Sugar Rush, and the latter was sung by the famous idol group AKB48 – so I guess the retitling had something to do with the promotion of that.

The characters themselves were basically great. Ralph gets very angry and breaks things easily, although he essentially has a heart of gold, while Veronica is the dictionary definition of quirky. The other two main protagonists are Fix-It Felix, out to find Ralph, and the female captain from the action shooter, out to find and kill the aliens that escaped from her game. They both have quite a distinct manner of speaking – he’s very polite and speaks like it’s the 1950s, while she always talks about everything with military metaphors. Spoiler alert: they fall in love.

The ending was perhaps a bit unsatisfying, to be honest. It was almost completely predictable in general tone, although there are a couple of specific twists that I will avoid revealing. The lessons that the characters learned were rather trite and uninteresting. There’s a monologue that Ralph makes (that I’d seen before seeing this) that seems to come out of nowhere right at the climax of the movie and isn’t actually relevant to the immediate situation, so it’s confusing why he does it in the first place. But basically the lesson learned is that Ralph’s not so bad when he’s off duty, he’s just got a job to do, and the citizens of the little tower block he destroys every day learn this and decide that they will actually start inviting him to parties and treating him with respect when he’s not actually being the villain, and he learns that being a villain is not so bad after all, when you have friends or whatever. And I just saw that and couldn’t believe they hadn’t worked it out already at the beginning of the movie. Felix even seems to know it already himself, if not consciously – at the beginning there’s a party that Ralph isn’t invited to, and Felix feels he has to go out and try and explain embarrassedly to Ralph that he can’t come in, rather than just not letting him in at all.

As a last sinister thought, I’ve seen it suggested on the internet that Pixar and Disney seem to have swapped places this year: Disney has released this, typically Pixar fare about finding yourself with lots of quirky characters, and Pixar has released Brave, which is about a princess and wasn’t as successful (although it’s also on my to-watch list). The implication is that this is because Pixar’s films generally have more success, and now that Disney actually owns it (which I thought they always did, to be honest – even Toy Story was distributed by Disney) they want to shake up the formula and get Disney films to be more popular again. I don’t know the answer to this, to be honest, but I thought it was interesting. Certainly this film was very good and very successful.

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